A rather depleted club contingent made the trip to Wollaton Park, Nottingham on Saturday 22nd February 2014 where Notts AC must be congratulated for staging an excellent National Cross-Country Championships. For the first and let’s hope not only time this winter the weather was kind and, despite a fresh breeze, there was no rain and some spectators were even seen wearing sunglasses! There were some good performances and the full results can be seen at http://www.englishcrosscountry.co.uk/news/saucony-english-cross-country-nationals-results-2014/
The course was undulating and was remarkably dry with long stretches of good fast running, although this winter’s rain had left a couple of parts of the course that were muddy enough to cause most people to finish with kit in need of a very good wash and some had clearly taken a tumble during the race.
In the under-13 girls race Katie Jones and Nancy Dineen ran side-by-side for the first two-thirds of the race before Katie (13:26) pulled away to finish 111th with Nancy 134th in 13:35 and Isobel Leeming 220th in 14:11. There were 431 finishers and you get an idea of how competitive the race is when you realise that although Katie and Nancy were 9 seconds apart there were 22 athletes in between them! This was a great National debut by all three athletes and bodes well for the future for all three but especially Katie who still has another year in the age group. As usual there was great support from the parents.
In the under-13 boys it was more like Ali’s Platoon than Ali’s Army as only three boys competed in the event. Nathan Marchant started very strongly but was a bit carried away in the early charge but finished a creditable 176th in 15:54 just in front of Stan Harding-Hill who was 182nd in 12:57. Robert Keikuth seemed happy with his performance as he finished 370th in 15:58 in a field of 385 finishers.
In the under-15 girl’s race Eloise Brown found herself the sole club runner not for the first time this season and finished 218th in 18:55in a field of 355 runners.
In the under-15 boys race the club finally closed in a team as Anton Mills led the boys home in 111th place in 15:50. Harry Leeming had a stitch that saw him lose numerous places in the second half of the race as he finished189th in 16:35. Otis Harding-Hill was third scorer in 285th place in 17:52 and Kieron Dunkley finished 341st in 23:03. The team were 29th with 926 points. Mention must be made of Kieron who is battling on despite his performances not matching those from last season but I am sure he will be back to his old self next winter once his recent growth spurt is behind him.
The club had no runners in either the Under-17 men’s or under-17 ladies races and Maria Jones was the sole competitor in the Under-20 Ladies Race. I am not sure of the odds you might have been able to get on Maria occupying the same place as younger sister Katy but she finished 111th in 28:29 in a field of134.
In the final event – the Senior Men’s race – there were only three intrepid competitors from the club Ben Robinson, Andy Malloy and Peter Mountain. Such had been the problems trying to get a team for the event that long-term Senior Men’s Team Manager cried off the day before utterly exhausted and dejected at the lack of support and it is clear that the club needs to re-evaluate whether it wishes to take part in the event in the future. Again a big thumb up to those who did run – Ben Robinson said he felt as if he got going on the third lap and was not too happy with his 177th place in 41:03. Andy Malloy and Peter Mountain both gave it their all throughout and made the jump from former recreational runners to national championship runners finishing 593rd in 46:20 and 949th in 50:19 respectively. Great results when you consider there were 1,657 finishers.
This brings me to the best individual and team results of the afternoon and these were in the Senior Ladies Race. Jessie Sanzo – in only her fourth cross-country race ever deployed the tactics she had used so well in the Midlands and stayed just slightly off the pace early on and finished strongly to take 16th place in 29:17 only 14 seconds off a top ten finish. This after a hard session on Wednesday as she was targeting the Bath Half Marathon more than the National Cross-Country. Kate Goodhead and Anna Burton both went out hard with Kate well in the top 20 after the first mile. Despite having a cold during the week Kate has always been a strong supporter of the club in this event and she dug in to finish twenty-seventh in 30:36. Anna Burton was the revelation of the day – up in 23rd place after the first mile she also dug in to finish 32nd in 30:51 – a great result for someone in her second season in the sport. Finally, but by no means least, Julia Belyavin is another club hero who turns out as back up in all sorts of races and stepped into the breach when it was clear that the club would only start four (despite entering 14) in the senior ladies. Julia finished 142nd in 33:59. Like Jessie she had at least one eye on the Bath Half but her performance meant the club ladies finished in a creditable fifth place with a score of 217 (which in some years would have been enough to sneak a bronze medal). After two years without a team medal in this event the club needs to start planning now to achieve a top three finish in 2015 given our supposed strength in depth in women’s endurance events!